« ZurückWeiter »
But leave their love, more open yet and free
“ His sweetness for those frowns no subject finds :
“While I am compass'd round
“So, now I am at rest:-
It has been with the greatest possible reluctance, that we have abstained from adorning our pages with some of the scenes of the All for Love and Don Sebastian. For this some excuse might have been found, in the fact that Dryden's peculiar dramatic merits might have been best illustrated by the quotation of passages from these two plays; but the length of the extracts, which we found ourselves compelled to make, have prevented our discussing this point in the manner we could have wished; and thus rendered these authorities, which we should have produced, less necessary. These two, however, as well as The Spanish Friar, are plays to which we can refer our readers as wholes ; and though very far from being without great blemishes and deficiencies, they will amply repay them for a repeated perusal. The Spanish Friar has been chiefly praised for the happy union of two plots. For our parts, we profess ourselves sceptical as to the merits of this union; and if it had possessed no other claim to our notice, than the ingenuity with which the adventures of a camp profligate are connected with the intrigues of the court, we could have seen no reason why it should not sleep in the same oblivion in which Love Triumphant has been entombed. The structure of the plot is intrinsically the same; perhaps the connection more complete in the one case, than in the other; or, in other words, the discordant and unharmonizing actions are more closely compacted, and the juncture more artfully concealed, though, in fact, there is the same inartificial combination in both. There is no Gordian knot to untie here, as is the case in the Merchant of Venice; the folds of which are so complicated that, to disentangle any part, you must mangle the whole. It may be worth our while, once for all, to disclose the secret of this artifice, and characterize the method by which the poet has endeavoured to delude us into an idea, that the very different scenes which he places before our eyes, belong to one and the same picture. The hero of the tragic plot is generally thè cousin-the fewer degrees removed, the more felicitous the combination of the hero of the comic plot, who is either an officer in the army commanded by the first, or a courtier in the palace where his relative is a lord of the bedchamber. The comic charaeter occasionally appears at court, the tragic is sometimes seen in the street; and with this slight intercourse, each pursues his several way, through the first three or four acts. The one is little nice in distinctions, and associates pretty promiscuously with ladies both of high and low degree, with much risque to his constitution, while the other intrigues with queens and princesses, and cabals with lords and courtiers, to the imminent hazard of his head. At length, the plot thickens, and we reach in good time the grand point of connexion. The tragic hero has occasion for some two or three hundred partizans, to put down his most uncompromising opponents, and who so proper to head them
as hís cousin, the debauchee? The latter accordingly musters his regiment, if he has one; or if not, no matter-his drunken boon companions will do just as well—who sally forth with “hose ungartered,” and make nothing of beating a set of sober-gaited citizens, or guards of the palace. Thus the tragic hero now gains all his ends, and it may be, in the height of victory, throws himself at the feet of his insulted sovereign. The heroism of his generous submission does his business effectually, and seals his pardon; while his companion in arms is left in peace, to enjoy his mistress, or quarrel with his wife, (if she does not turn out to he his sister, as in The Spanish Friar,) to the end of the chapter. The merit of this happy conception--for happy it has been pronounced by the general voice of critics, from one generation to another-we are at a loss to imagine; though we are very far from being of the faction, who would hunt down tragi-comedy as a monster, to which criticism should give no quarter : on the contrary, we are disposed to think that it is the only species of the drama, which is calculated to afford a just description of human life. There-all is not gloom—nor all sunshine pleasant smiling vallies peep forth amidst utter desolation, the dreariest waste and the most inaccessible rocks neighbour a fertile soil; as the ripe and blushing strawberry frequently pillows itself on a bed of snow, by the side of which it often grows on the lofty mountains of Switzerland. All is unequal, all diversified. The hero of the court may be the hero of the tavern, and the armed warrior who kills his thousands, may scare pacific passengers in the streets in his drunken frolics. In this light, Shakespear saw man, and his tragi-comedy is merely the history of human life.
Of the comedies of Dryden we have said nothing, and all we shall say is this, that they are forced and exaggerated exhibitions of an attempt at comic wit, wrung from a brain which, being ill adapted for a successful effort, took refuge in obscenity, and was fain to season its dullness with coarse and indecent allusions. In reckoning up the number of plays from which we have extracted passages, and those which we have not mentioned, we cannot but lament, that Dryden should have dribbled away his genius in so large a number of successless attempts. Had his talent been concentrated in the production of two or three, or even half a dozen, after his judgment had been matured, and his taste purified from the defilement of the age, we might perhaps have numbered so many more among the noblest monuments of English genius; but diffused as it is over five times that number, it was hardly enough to instil into one or two, a spirit that should suffice to preserve them from the corruptions of time. Their unnatural, tawdry, and sometimes disa,
gusting forms, sleep like neglected lumber, in the corner of that temple, where we place the immortal works of the admired masters of the preceding age, and he who would drag them forth, wipe off the accumulated dust of centuries, and set them up, each on his pedestal, would produce an effect as strange and incongruous, as though he had introduced the grotesque and savage abortions of Otaheite among the divinely inspired forms of ancient genius. Without intending any such dishonour to the illustrious group of our dramatic writers, we have adventured an examination of this heap of lumber, for the benefit of less daring or curious investigators; and when we have, in the course of our survey, chanced to espy a limb of more exquisite proportion than common, or a feature of more than ordinary beauty, in selecting these relics of his genius into a group, we conceive we have been doing a kinder office to his memory, than were we to make a portentous exhibition of the whole of his forgotten dramas.
Art. X. A MS. Volume of Sir Thomas Browne's Letters to his
mused in the lattener, or the light
We are not satisfied with the published works of a great writer; we like to see him face to face, and to examine the more minute lineaments of his mental physiognomy. We are desirous of beholding him in the midst of his family, that we may observe his temper and disposition, and the circumstances which ruffle the former, or the little kindnesses and attentions displayed in the latter. It is not enough to hear a set speech; we must also hear his familiar conversation. When we contemplate him in his guarded moments, we are apt to think him too much above us, and are glad to find him, on a nearer approach, a little more upon our own level. The manuscript letters of Sir Thomas Browne we thought must be interestingwe expected to be made acquainted with a few more of the singularities of his extraordinary mind—we promised ourselves, indeed, great discoveries, and we set to work to read his letters with eagerness. Our eagerness, however, met with some check -we did not get on quite so rapidly as we expected—we found that before we could engage in the pleasant occupation of selection, we must exercise our patience in deciphering the most difficult and singular hand-writing we have ever met with, even in old MSS. To this task we applied ourselves, and succeeded in partially deciphering, amongst others, the letters which succeed; in which our readers will discover something of the kind of speculation in which Sir T. Browne delighted. It is pleasant to
see the terms of equality on which the father corresponded with his son, and the affection which he shows for him. The letters we have extracted, we think, possess sufficient interest to warrant us in making them public; and if, in the progress of our investigation, we find others which are of sufficient importance to be also published, they will be given in our subsequent numbers. Some parts of the letters which did not appear in the least remarkable, and related only to trifling circumstances which happen to every one, we have taken the liberty to omit, and have inclosed the unintelligible words in brackets.
“ Oct. 15, 1660. D. S.
I am glad to hear you are all in health this sickly time * * * * * I am also glad that Mr. John 's daughter is recovered, who is a good young gentlewoman, and very deare unto her parents; when you see them remember me unto them. I think you are in the right when you say that physitians coaches in London are more for state than for business, there being so many wayes whereby they may be assisted at lesser charge and care in London. The Thames and hackney coaches being no small help, besides the great number of coaches kept by private gentlemen in and about London, When I read G s Travells in America many years ago, I was much surprised to finde there twentie thousand coaches in Mexico—perhaps there may be in London halfe that number. When Queene Elizabeth came to Norwich, 1578, she came on horsebacke from Ipswich, by the high road to Norwich, in the summer time, but she had a coach or two in her trayne. She rid through Norwich unto the Bishop's palace, where she stayed a week, and went sometimes a hunting on horseback, and up to Musfold Hill often, to see wrestling and shooting. When I was a youthé many persons travelled with three horses, but now there is a new face of things. *
God bless you all.
Y. D. F.
Court, nr to ye Golden Balls,
D. S. * * *
I am glad you have put an end to that laboure, though I am not sorry that you undertook it.-We are glad to understand by my daughter Browne's letter, that my daughter-in-law is delivered of a sonne—the blessing of God bee upon you both, and send healthThe vessel of cider sent you from Guernzey was waik, it came not outof Normandy, but from Guernzey, though it was not of my sonne and daughter's making—they might have made much, there being plentie of apples, butt they made butt 2 or 3 hoggesheads for their own use. Your sister tells me that they have plentie of large oysters like [ ]